The One That Got Away
Destinations are like lovers—ask any seasoned traveler and I’m sure they’d agree. When you first arrive in a new place, you feel that initial rush of wild excitement in the same way you do when you meet someone new. And like any introduction, although you’re uncertain how it will all turn out, the air still crackles with the electricity of potential.
Over the next few days or weeks, you try to get a feel for each other. What’s he like? What are his passions? As you learn more and more about your new lover that electric potential is either realized or it fizzles out. If the two of you don’t jibe, when your time together comes to an end, you’re happy to have spent time in their company but also ready to move on. But if the connection was deep, soulful, and meaningful, you feel the pangs of separation just as you would with any flesh-and-blood lover. And then the questions begin to haunt you in the corners of your mind—what if we never see each other again? What if we do meet again and the electric chemistry is gone?
I’ve had my fair share of lovers over the years. Destinations that were a nice distraction for several days. A few who, because the chemistry just wasn’t there, became like best friends. And one or two I just can’t stop thinking about.
And then there are the encounters where the potential was there but the circumstances just weren’t right. Like locking eyes with someone from across the room but you’re at a bar with your friends and you never get the chance to tear yourself away to go over and say hello. And before you know it, you turn around and just like that, the mystery man with the seductive stare has disappeared.
I once had a travel experience like that. If the “destinations-as-lovers” analogy holds true, then Seattle was the one that got away.
I arrived in Seattle, dusty and bedraggled after six long days on the road, driving a car across the country for friends who’d just moved to the West Coast and settled into a cozy suburb of Seattle. Over the next couple of days, they entertained me with a visit to a local grapparia, a bicycle ride along the Sammamish River Trail, and a leisurely breakfast at a local café, among other domestic pursuits.
But the time I enjoyed most were the few hours we spent in Seattle itself—driving into downtown, walking around the small shops, and perusing the stalls at Pike Place Market. The weather was not what most people expect from Seattle: the air was warm, the sky was blue and cloudless, with not a drop of rain in the forecast. I was in sheer heaven, flitting about from vendor to vendor in my open-toed sandals, breezy white cotton skirt, and bare legs.
Although I didn’t see much of the city itself, I felt like I could have stayed at Pike Place Market forever. The laid-back, artsy atmosphere of the vendors, their stalls spilling over with hand-crafted pieces and artisanal delicacies; the warm honeyed glow radiating from the sunlit street; the sweet fragrance wafting from the vibrant selection of peonies that had grown as big as my face. The colors. The snap. The movement. The life.
I liked what I saw and how I felt. In other words, I was diggin’ the vibe. It was like Seattle smiled at me with a flirty twinkle in his eye and I was thisclose to being completely and utterly smitten. And I wanted to know Seattle more. To get personal. To be intimate. To drink an iced-single-venti-caramel-macchiato-no-foam-extra-sweet in the very first Starbucks café across the street from the Market. To enjoy a lazy, contemplative stroll along the waterfront. To see the city from the top of the Space Needle, laid out like a visual banquet. And maybe just get good ol’ fashioned lost. But those few dynamic hours I spent at Pike Place Market were the first spark of a romance that was not to be.
During my last two days in Washington State, I kept promising myself that I’d sneak off for a few hours by myself to hang out with Seattle and do all of the things I’d been fantasizing about. But the hours and days slid quickly past, filled with errands and visits and such, and before long, I was packed up on an eastbound flight for home.
I often look back on those few short days in Seattle and wonder what if? Would that first spark of attraction have flamed into a grande passion? Had I missed the opportunity for a love affair? The attraction I feel is still strong and those brief days in Seattle continue to call to me like a siren whose song I am powerless to resist. I know I have to return.
Seattle, one of these days I’m going to get you alone. Just you and me. And we’ll make magic happen. I just know it.
What about you–is there a destination you felt an immediate connection to and you’d like to return to spend some more time there?